August Forecast

By David Mumpower

10) Blood Work

Clint Eastwood made a savvy career move by working in the wonderfully-geriatric comedy Space Cowboys in 2000. It demonstrated that he still has box-office muscle in the right film. Unfortunately, from a money-making perspective, Blood Work does not appear to be a similar choice. Instead, it looks to be a film in the vein of True Crime, a solid film that was largely ignored at the box office. While I think this production has the chance to be a truly great film on the level of Absolute Power, I just don't see it making any money at all. It's a shame that a great actor's most interesting casting choice in recent memory will get judged solely on how much money it makes, since there's little chance of it being remembered come awards season.

9) Full Frontal

As an FYI, I'm giving bonus points for the title. Yes, this is a limited release which may turn out to be too unconventional for the body of North American audiences. Still, the recent showing of My Big Fat Greek Wedding emphatically demonstrates that a small release can chew up box office for months and months as long as it has enough going for it. In the case of Full Frontal, the hottest director in Hollywood combined with the recently-newlywed (again) Julia Roberts, along with a ton of other famous actors, should be enough to drive this one to decent box office. In a month with as many DOA projects as August, that should be enough for the limited release to sneak into the top ten. It's all just the passing of time until Solaris gets here anyway.

8) The Adventures of Pluto Nash

Eddie Murphy is historically the ultimate example of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde box-office performance. He'll throw out a Dr. Dolittle and then he'll throw out a Holy Man. He'll do a Nutty Professor and then he'll do a Metro. In this instance, he did a Shrek and then he did Pluto Nash. It's just that the latter title was so incredibly awful that they delayed it a full year while deciding the best point to get a strong opening weekend before watching the film disappear into the oblivion it so richly deserves. Lucky us, that time has been decided as August of 2002, so for those of you going opening weekend, enjoy it, suckers. For the rest of you, pay the commercials no mind or take a long shower if you feel unclean after watching them. I'm sorely tempted to give the film the Worst Movie of the Year award based solely on the trailers, but I'll sit through it just so that I can complain about it later.

7) Master of Disguise

Dana Carvey's heart problems apparently made him re-evaluate what he was doing in life to the point that he decided to make happy, silly films which are harmless and fluffy. Master of Disguise is the first such project and since it's a dirt-cheap production which will do moderate business, I would expect plenty more where that came from in the coming years. The film looks awful to anyone over the age of five but it has an odd pull to anyone younger, which makes Carvey appear to be a modern Pied Piper. Unless people stop letting their kids drink his special Kool-Aid, this one should make $35-$40 million domestic. How scary is that?

6) fear dot com

Sliding into the Jeepers Creepers slot on the chart is this title, a generic horror film with a Labor Day release. What's intriguing here is the cast, which would be top-notch for a dramatic piece. In a slasher film, it smacks of overkill. Stephen Dorff, Stephen Rea, and Natasha McElhone join the more comfortably-cast horror-film vet Jeffrey Combs in this already-dated idea of Internet murder. Halloween: Resurrection probably did the same general idea a bit better but the commercials are encouraging, so it should do well opening weekend.

5) Serving Sara

Picking five through ten is like choosing which day to have a root canal. The difference between the best four releases of August and the rest ain't pretty. Since I'm a Matthew Perry fan and a Bruce Campbell fan, this is basically a fan-boy pick rather than a box-office prognostication. I don't see anything else making over $50 million after the top four, so coming in fifth is like dancing about architecture. Still, if it gets Bruce Campbell more work, we at BOP want to support that. Go Serving Sara.

4) Blue Crush

Whether you think it's this year's Bring It On or Coyote Ugly or The Fast and the Furious, you probably do think it's a lock to do solid business. It appeals to women who enjoy seeing strong women on screen and it appeals to men who enjoy seeing strong women on screen in surfer gear. Some of the dialogue is certainly cringe-inducing, but it will make a ton.

3) Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

It's Alias for eight-year-olds. It's Mr. Gadget but without the icky Matthew Broderick quotient. It's Antonio Banderas in a part where you don't actually find yourself thinking of that awful time you suffered through Original Sin.

And now it's got Mr. Roarke.

Robert Rodriguez has done the impossible and turned a silly idea into a thoroughly enjoyable franchise with a ton of appeal to kids. What he has accomplished here is truly commendable and I, for one, will be happy for him as Spy Kids 2 knocks off some much bigger competition to again cross the $100 million barrier.

2) Signs

M. Night Shyamalan is the purest example in Hollywood of a love 'em/hate 'em movie-maker. For every person who praises the glory of Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense in a 75-page treatise on storytelling expertise through camera usage, there is an equally impassioned person venting in kind with a 95-page dissertation on prima donna filmmakers which is guaranteed to close with the phrase "glorified hack". I fall somewhere in the middle on him, as I enjoyed The Sixth Sense but would have liked it better without the big twist. I thought Unbreakable was entertaining but I had the mystery of it solved in less than three minutes (not an exaggeration). This means that I see both sides of the argument and that I understand why people are so passionate about the man's films. It also means I understand why his films do so well.

For better or for worse, he has that Howard Stern thing going for him, where the people who dislike his films are as likely to go see them as the people who love them. People want visceral reactions, good or bad, and two films in, Shyamalan has definitely delivered the goods in that regard. Think about how many people you know who like or dislike his films. Contrast that with the people you know who are relatively indifferent. You follow my line of thinking now. Love him or hate him, you will feel something when you watch the movies. To my mind, that's high praise.

Signs promises to be more of the same, as it tells the story of a religious man who has lost faith after the tragic death of his wife. Making much-beloved Mel Gibson the sympathetic soul is nothing short of a masterstroke, as he is one of the most popular Everyman heroes in the history of film. Showing the story unfold from his eyes will make the movie better while helping get people into theaters that much faster. I expect Signs to finish number one its first weekend and have legs better than Unbreakable's, but nowhere near Sixth Sense.

1) xXx

For me personally, Vin Diesel is first and foremost the Iron Giant but to others, he is the most interesting superstar to come down the pike in recent memory. He does not have the cookie-cutter good looks that doom a generation of LA residents to a decade of auditions, call-backs and jobs waiting tables while they wait for a big break that just ain't coming. Instead, he is a singularly unique, muscular man with a bald head and a bone-chilling voice who gains attention everywhere he goes. Also, he is unconventional and non-conformist. This is a man who wrote and directed his own pieces to get attention rather than play Thug #3 in some low-grade, low-budget action flick. He walks his own path rather than tread in the footsteps of countless others.

This gambit has paid off and Vin now finds himself poised to be the biggest money-making superstar of the current generation of actors. I once (famously to my friends) made the supposition that The Rock was poised to be the next Tom Cruise. While that has obviously turned out to be *ahem*, a bit much in the hyperbole department, there was a certain logic behind my statement. It has become obvious that Stallone, Arnold and all of the other A-grade action heroes are too old, and the B-grade ones like Van Damme and Seagal have proved emphatically that talent is secondary to charisma in the realm of explosion movies. Alas, I picked the wrong horse in the race, as it is now clear to virtually everyone involved with movie-making that the next $25 million-a-picture action-hero superstar is Vin Diesel, and his presence will be announced with authority when numbers come in for xXx.

xXx has everything that has been missing from the past five years of Die Hard clones. It has a rising superstar, a unique premise (James Bond meets the X-Games), a cool-quotient boss in Samuel L. Jackson, and stunts which promise to revolutionize the industry. This is the first movie that directly appeals to the people who have made Tony Hawke 3 one of the most popular videogames ever. It's not just a rote exercise in car chases and supermodel scoring. Instead, it appeals to a new generation of malcontent Generation wHATEver movie-goers who made The Fast and the Furious a blockbuster while still keeping James Bond fans largely satisfied. A man who appears to be a spiritual brother to Snake, everyone's favorite Simpsons felon, makes for a perfect forced hero, and audiences will respond in kind to his story.

xXx is going to beat Signs to win August, it might beat Austin Powers III for the number-one film of the summer, and it's going to make the producers of The Fast and the Furious 2 look like idiots for not ponying up the dough to the Iron Giant.

  • Read Tim Briody's August forecast
  • Read Stephanie Star Smith's August forecast
  • Read Reagen Sulewski's August forecast